Charity Commission workforce 'unhappy with senior managers'

Charity Commission staff are generally positive about their direct line managers, but are less so about senior management and the organisation as a whole, according to the results of the regulator's latest internal staff survey.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents say they trust their immediate managers to act in their best interests, yet only 16 per cent feel senior management enables innovation and new ideas within the organisation and only 21 per cent feel the commission acts in the best interests of staff.

The commission generally scores badly in all areas involving trust and respect, and results show it lagging behind both the public and private sectors when it comes to employees trusting line managers, senior management or the organisation as a whole.

The comment and recommendation sections of the survey, leaked to Third Sector, elicit some scathing comments. "The leadership team seems unable to challenge poor practice among a few of its number and seems unaware of the consequences of some of their communications with staff," reads one.

However, the commission scores well for flexible working: 64 per cent feel they have the flexibility they need to achieve a good work-life balance, and some employees say they feel the commission looks after staff with special requirements well.

The survey is part of a wider management development programme that the commission embarked on earlier this year, run by consultancy Happy People. "I think the programme was something the commission felt was missing and wanted to offer its staff as part of its commitment to being a good workplace," said Henry Stewart, chief executive of Happy People.

Neither Happy People nor the commission were sure about why the regulator fared badly. Both told Third Sector that pressures resulting from recent restructuring contributed to the low morale, but did not explain it.

Stewart said the commission was typical of many organisations in doing some things well and others less so. "The truth is that we could all be better managers," he said. "But by recognising this and taking the issue seriously, the commission is streets ahead of other organisations."

Sarah Atkinson, head of corporate affairs at the commission, said senior management decided to tell staff the results of the survey as proof of their commitment to acting on the findings.

"The challenge is big," she said. "But if we don't work well as an organisation, we won't win people's trust."


Some are happy


- 'Local managers listen and try to make a difference'

- 'The commission employs enthusiastic, committed people who care about their colleagues and the work we do'


Some are gloomy


- 'Directors could be less involved in the detail and learn to trust and empower other senior staff more'

- 'Do all the things we recommend charities do but do not do ourselves!'.


What makes a good manager? Discuss...


The Charity Commission put out a tender at the end of 2006 inviting management consultancies to bid to provide a management and leadership skills development programme for the regulator's staff.

Happy People, the management arm of charity IT training outfit Happy Computers, won the contract and suggested the commission carry out a staff survey to find out exactly where it stood with its employees.

"We were pleased the commission took up our proposal," said Henry Stewart, Happy People chief executive. "We're keen to measure the effects of what we do."

Happy People was contracted to run a three-day management and leadership course for middle and senior managers across the commission's four offices. Courses take place one day a week for three weeks. "It gives people a chance to reflect between sessions," said Happy People trainer Nicky Stone.

Exercises include getting people to reflect on what makes a good manager and when people think they work at their best.

The consultancy is about a third of the way through its programme with the commission. Work is scheduled to continue until the first quarter of 2008, although this could be extended if the regulator decides to carry out another survey in a year's time.

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